As is customary when I get my novel back from the editor, I am going to post the first chapter here. Welcome to Werewolves vs. Mummies 2 – All Wrapped up. My editor says it’s awesome, though she’s sort of paid to say that. You’ll be able to buy it on Amazon 08/25/15.
“Have I ever told you about the time I was waist deep in muck and how awesome it was?” Khufu asked as he pulled one foot out of the brown, goopy swamp and placed it on the shore with a wet-sounding squelch that turned my stomach.
“Are you talking about right now?” I asked, arching an eyebrow at him as I reached my hand out to help him out of the slime. “Because I think you’re talking about right now.”
We were standing on the bank of the Nile River in ninety plus degree heat, which was part of the problem. The river was filled with about a thousand tons of mud so the water had turned into a sludgy mess that smelled like a cross between raw sewage and rotting fish. I’d like to say this sort of thing was uncommon, but unfortunately since Apep had banished Ra from the face of the earth, it wasn’t.
Khufu smirked at me, his stupid toothy grin spreading across his face like warm butter across toast as he reached out to take my hand. Just as his fingers were about to touch my palm, I pulled my hand back and ran it through my long brown hair before flinging my sweaty fingers at him. Spattering him with my sweat was strangely satisfying, but not as much as the look on his face.
“Too slow,” I called, spinning away from him and walking away from the swollen river, my sandals squeaking on the wet, muddy sand with each step. Behind me, I heard Khufu mutter to himself as he hoisted his mud-splattered body onto the bank.
I half expected him to stand there sucking in gulps of air, but that would have been silly since he was a mummy, and therefore didn’t need to do silly things like breathe or eat. I put my hand to my stomach as the thought of food made my mouth water. When was the last time I’d had some good old fashioned sustenance? I couldn’t even remember. We’d need to remedy that soon because my inner werewolf was starting to get pretty hungry. This was a bad thing because as much as the idea of chowing down on fish that had been left dead in the sun for a few days made my stomach slosh, my wolf was starting to lick its chops at the sight.
“That joke got old like fifteen times ago,” Khufu said, sidling up beside me and matching my brisk pace with ease. “And cut your damn hair, you freaking hippy.”
“I will not cut my hair. It’s a werewolf thing. We’re supposed to have long hair. Besides, I’m Native American, having long hair is part of my mystique.” I shrugged at him, but he didn’t seem to be listening to me anyway. “So what’s the plan, anyway? We’ve been tromping around in the mud for two days, which isn’t exactly helping us do anything unless you’re trying to give me trench foot.” I wiggled my toes in my sandals, spreading mud around on the hard leather soles. They were a step up from the straw ones I’d had before, but not significantly more comfortable.
“I told you I’m looking for something. Do you think I want to be frolicking in the mud with you?” Khufu replied, spinning around in front of me. His eyes went wide as he reached down, grabbing the hilt of the curved saber attached to his belt. “Get back!”
“What? What is it?” I cried, whirling around as my heart hammered in my chest. Only… only I didn’t see anything. A snarl crossed my lips. “Are you just screwing with me?”
“Who? Me?” Khufu said from behind me, humor lacing his words. “Would I do a thing like that?”
“I’m this close to losing my ability to even,” I said, turning on him and narrowing my eyes.
“To even what?” he asked, one dark eyebrow quirking up on his forehead. His face went pale, and he jerked the khopesh free of his belt.
“Um… Thes…” Khufu swallowed, pointing back toward the river. “Get ready for trouble.”
“Oh no, I’m not falling for that one again,” I replied, putting my hands on my hips and leveling my best ‘I will totally eat you because I’m a werewolf and we do stuff like that’ stare at him.
“I’m serious,” he replied and his voice sounded, well, serious.
“I swear if you’re lying to me…” I trailed off, glancing off toward where he pointed. Off in the distance, a platoon of snake-headed men with skin the color of molasses advanced on our position in their gleaming ruby armor. So they had found us already.
“Apepians…” Khufu murmured, whirling back around and jogging away from the river, not even bothering to look back to see if I was following him. Which I was because our last encounter with the snake-faced minions of evil hadn’t exactly gone well. For whatever reason, when they died, they turned into whirlwinds of razor-sharp black dust. And let me tell you, that stuff gets into crevices I didn’t even know I had.
“Great,” I muttered as I sprinted after him. “Just great.”
Ever since Apep, the Egyptian deification of darkness and chaos, had risen and locked his adversary, the Sun God Ra, away in God knows where, he had been systematically taking over Egypt quarter by quarter. We’d tried to slow the process down by interfering whenever we could, but our resistance never seemed to matter very much in the end. Darkness was sweeping over Egypt, and thus far, we’d had little luck staving it off.
To make matters worse, his goons had been hounding us left and right while we tried to find whatever sacred object Khufu was convinced would help us. We were now on magical artifact number thirty-seven, and every single time we found one, well let’s just say the results had been less than spectacular.
Honestly, I wasn’t surprised since Apep had more than enough juice to squash us like bugs if he wanted to do so. Why he hadn’t yet was still a mystery to me. Still, his minions, huge eight foot tall men with rippling biceps and heads like cobras, were more than a little annoying.
“So uh what’s the plan?” I asked as a trumpet call exploded through the air, shattering my hearing and making the resulting silence of the desert overwhelming and oppressive.
“We get the hell out of here, regroup, and come up with a new plan,” Khufu called over his shoulder.
“That’s the same plan we’ve been using for the last three weeks.” I exhaled sharply through my teeth. “I think it’s time we found a new plan, don’t you think?”
“Um… if you want to fight all those snakes for no apparent reason, be my guest,” Khufu snapped, glancing back at me over his shoulder.
“That’s not what I’m saying,” I replied as he ducked into a little hut and paused just inside the doorway. Why he had picked the only hut in the vicinity to hide inside was beyond me. It’d be the first place the snake creatures would probably look for us. Even still, I ducked in behind him and found him fiddling with a secret hatch in the floor. He had the big iron ring in his massive hands and was pulling on it so hard, his muscles corded with the effort.
Next to him, an old threadbare rug lay bunched in the corner, but there wasn’t much else inside. Was the whole purpose of this shack to cover the trapdoor? And why was there a trapdoor in a hut in the middle of nowhere?
“Can you help me?” Khufu asked, releasing the ring, and the solid stone trapdoor crashed back down the couple inches he had managed to lift. I swallowed and took a deep breath. Most mummies were strong enough to bench press a tractor, and Khufu was no exception. I wasn’t exactly sure what he expected me to do to help him. Offer moral support?
“Yeah, sure,” I mumbled, throwing one last look outside. The snake-men were only a few yards away, and from what I could tell, there were over a dozen of the oil-slick creatures coming after us. I jogged over to Khufu and grabbed the ring along with him and tugged.
It was like trying to lift the planet, and honestly, I’m not sure how we managed it, but we did. Maybe it was the black as the pit of hell arrows zinging through the air that pushed us to raise it the last few inches, though I’m not going to swear to that.
Either way, we were inside the secret passage just as the first Apepian breeched the door, blackened spear in hand. The trapdoor slammed shut as we flung ourselves inside, sealing us beneath a thousand pounds of stone and pitching us into near darkness.
I took a deep breath, calling upon my inner wolf to help me see in the dark, but I needn’t have bothered. There was nothing in the long dark passage as Khufu began moving forward, his khopesh in hand. Then again, being able to see never hurt anyone.
Above us, I heard the creatures struggling with the trapdoor. I wasn’t sure how strong they were, but with so many of them present, I wasn’t exactly confident they wouldn’t breach the hatch above our heads.
“All I’m saying is maybe we need to come up with a slightly better plan,” I said as I stepped up behind Khufu and tossed one last look at the trapdoor, straining my ears and listening for the sounds of the Apepians breaking through. Fortunately, I heard nothing. “One that doesn’t involve constantly running away from snake monsters.”
I turned back around and glared at the back of Khufu’s bald head. The hallway wasn’t wide enough for us to walk next to each other, though that was more to do with the mummified pharaoh being built like a professional linebacker than the passage being abnormally small.
“We have a plan, find a sacred object that actually works and use it to stop Apep’s reign of terror.” Khufu snorted, his gilded armor jangling with the movement. “I like the plan. It’s my plan and, therefore, a good one.”
“Look, I’m not trying to dismiss your plan because it hasn’t worked the last thirty times we’ve tried to use some kind of magic doohickey to stop the snake god, nor will I bring up how the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” I let out a slow breath as he bristled in front of me, the muscles of his huge back tensing as he gripped his khopesh even tighter. “I’m just saying while we’ve been frolicking in the mud for the last couple weeks, my friend Connor has been stuck without his soul, and Sekhmet has been captured by Imhotep. He’s probably doing all sorts of horrible things to her.”
“Look, I know you’re concerned about your girlfriend’s purity and what not,” Khufu replied, ignoring my comment about Connor as he spun around to face me. He kept walking… backward. Evidently he wasn’t worried about something coming down the hallway and, oh I don’t know, rending him limb from limb. “But Sekhmet is an Egyptian war deity. She’s probably fine.”
I rubbed my temples with one hand as I shook my head. “My point is you supposedly know where Imhotep is located and instead of doing something productive like rescuing Sekhmet and getting me home, we’re doing what has amounted to nothing.”
“I really wish you’d stop bringing up the whole Sekhmet thing.” Khufu shook his head as he eyed me carefully. “I’m starting to think you don’t enjoy my company, or is it something else?” He raised his eyebrow in the super annoying way he did. “Is it because I don’t look like a nineteen-year-old swimsuit model with enormous breasts?”
My cheeks burned as I stared at him, willing myself to not take the bait. If there was one thing I’d learned over the last few weeks, it was that Khufu resorted to name calling and teasing in order to get out of talking about things he didn’t want to talk about. Well, this time, I was getting a good answer from him because I needed to get home to save Connor, and honestly, I didn’t want to leave until we saved Sekhmet. I wasn’t exactly sure what Imhotep was doing with the goddess, but deep down, I was pretty certain it wasn’t all puppies and chocolate bars.
I reached out, grabbing Khufu by the collar with one hand and hauling him forward so I could look down into his face. It was fairly easy to do because I was over a foot taller than him. Ah, the joys of being six and a half feet tall.
“No, that’s not why. And if you don’t explain your plan right now, I’m going to eat you.” I smiled, letting my canines show. “Are we clear?”
Khufu huffed out a breath that let me know two things. One, he hadn’t brushed his teeth in, well, ever, and two, he wasn’t even slightly afraid of me eating him.
“You won’t eat me. I’m too tough.” He crossed his arms over his chest which was altogether ridiculous because I had him hauled up on his tippy toes.
“Do I look like the purple people eater to you?” I asked, letting him go and smirking as he stumbled.
“I don’t know what that is,” he replied, brushing himself off before turning and making his way down the hallway. “Here’s the problem, Thes. Apep is strong. See, when we empowered Ra with the staff, it also increased Apep’s power by an equal measure. There’s that whole balance thing. Remember?”
“Are you seriously telling me that by empowering Ra to stop Apep, we made Apep stronger too?” I asked, following him as he turned down a corridor. Torches burned along the jade walls, making monstrous emerald shadows leap across the floor.
“Basically.” He reached out and grabbed one of the torches, pulling it from the sconce on the wall and using it to light his path. “And because Ra is trapped in who knows where, Apep gets to walk around with all that extra juice because the universe thinks everything is in balance. He pretty much played us for fools.”
“I still don’t see why that means we can’t find Sekhmet,” I replied as he put his hand on the wall and traced one stubby finger against a carved picture of a man with a red-headed dog face.
“You wouldn’t,” Khufu said, pulling his hand away as the wall began to glow with crimson light. “But you’re about to find out.” He turned, smirking at me as the wall behind him crumbled to the ground in a cloud of scarlet dust. “Because Imhotep’s hideout is right through there.”
“What’s the catch?” I stared at him for a long time, trying to decide whether or not I should be happy Khufu had finally decided to go after her. Something about his sudden change in motives was a little unnerving to say the least. “You’ve been going out of your way to ignore Sekhmet’s plight, so what’s the deal?”
“The catch?” he replied as a monstrous roar from the room within shook the corridor and my resolve. A smile curled across his lips. “That would be the catch.”